Asked at a conference whether she thought southern European countries ‘could take’ any further German-imposed austerity, she snapped, saying: ‘I call it balancing the budget. Everyone else is using this term austerity. That makes it sound like something truly evil.’
Of course, that’s easy to say when you’re the chancellor of the Teutonic powerhouse that is Germany. Of course, Merkel is not a popular character in some of the southern European states, where protestors have carried images depicting her as a Nazi general.
One of Merkel’s allies in the German parliament, Michael Fuchs (he’s deputy leader of the Christian Democrats (CDU), said: ‘Declaring an end to consolidation is absolute nonsense. In truth no one is really saving anyway, they're just issuing less debt than before.’
But Merkel's frosty response to the question is indicative of the fact that Germany is coming under increasing pressure to adopt a slighty softer line on this. The difference between budget balancing and austerity may seem clear enough in Berlin, but it's perhaps less obvious on the streets of Athens or Nicosia...